Monday, May 29, 2023

Quicksilver 100K 2023: was it hot, really?

2 weeks have passed, let’s see what I can still capture as souvenirs for the sake of making up for what my memory might miss in a few years. Or for some historians interested in some recount of this 38th edition our Quicksilver Club ultra series; running since 1984, quite a fixture of our North California trail running community! I joined that history quite late but have been quite into it since 2009: 4 times the 50K, 2 50-miles and this year was my 7th 100K. When you love, you don’t count...
What do I mostly recall then? Before re-running the course in my head, first and foremost that it was announced as a hot year, but it was more that this was the first hot weekend of the year so nobody had any heat training, at least among the locals. While most people suffered from the heat indeed, some people reported the temperatures just breaking 90F so it wasn’t that bad at least on the thermometer scale. As a matter of facts some sections of the trail were still wet, a big change from some of the years where the trail itself is radiating heat in addition to the blazing sun on the numerous exposed parts of the course. The other big news of this year’s edition was the closure of the top of Limekiln Trail due to a mud slide from the wet winter and spring we finally had this time for a great change. Contrary to what people may think since I’m proudly wearing the Quicksilver jersey, I very rarely drive down to Almaden to train on these trails. I wasn’t familiar with this addition of running Dog Meat reverse. A minor change in the grand scheme, but still some interesting quad and hamstring work early in the race. Oh, and another big news: the Lexington reservoir is full again, what a special year! Look at all these trees taking a foot bath:


And now in more details as some of you wouldn't expect less... ;-) 

I got to the Hacienda entrance just after 3 am, I was second in line, followed by William and Chuck from Pamakids. We patiently waited until the doors opened at 3:30, I even managed to work some to prepare for a big client workshop I was leading a few days later in Raleigh. Then we waited more, for the bibs to arrive at 3:45. Still ample time to get ready by 4:30 except that, because of construction going on on the parking lot this year, the parking capacity was reduced and some runners had to park at another place, half a mile away. With that, co-RDs, Stuart and Loren, decided to push the start to 4:45. Despite wearing my Brooks arm warmers, and ironically given the heat advisory warning, I got a bit chilly while we were waiting and chatting for these extra minutes.
A dozen or so runners took off quite fast in the first steep hill, I was fine still seeing a few headlamps ahead by mile 1 which I completed, with some walking already, in 11:28. By the cemetery, I pointed myself in 9th place, quite far already behind a group of 4 in the lead, led by our local Steven (Kool, 28), for his first 100K and I believe second ultra (after Way too Cool 50K this winter). I crossed a good bunch of runners on the way back and up from that landmark made more special by a volunteer wearing a skeleton costume. The footing on that section is uneven and it was still dark so I was heads down, literally. With the late start though, I switched off my headlamp before our first passage through Hicks Road and left it to Clare. Scott was already supervising the road crossing and he was again a few hours later when I returned, one of these ultra shifts!
The 5-mile climb to Woods Road was eventless but fastidious. With some walking in the last 2 miles, 2 runners closed on me but stopped at the aid station while, carrying 2 bottles (GU Energy Brew and water) I continued on that infamous Dog Meat roller coaster. On the steep way down Priest Rock I caught up with a runner who was wearing a headset. With the steep downhills my heels were already burning and I felt a better strategy to dissipate the heat was to just let go at full speed rather than trying to put on some break, and passed him. Since he had his audio in and we were moving fast, I just made a hand sign while passing. Fortunately, I didn’t take a fall in that tricky section. While I was eating a GU Energy gel before the Lexington Reservoir aid station at the bottom of the toughest climb of the day, Dmitri passed me, schooling me for not talking back to him, ouch! Was it my hearing loss, or the fact that I typically don’t speak to someone wearing earbuds, or the fact that I was ingesting some good sticky carbs, that left me... speechless. ;-) At least he looked very relaxed and was having a spectacular day, he would end up taking 3rd!
Lexington was my first stop, to refill my bottles and take on the vest and Leki poles which Agnès drove down to hand out to me. Despite just a couple minutes spend at the aid station, I got passed by another runner. I used to run most of this climb a few years ago but I lost the stamina so the poles helped moving upward. As I often say, what I love in ultra running is the running part, I still hate the occasional walking... With the course change, I saw another part of the pack as we crossed path Priest Rock. Big thanks to all for the encouragements we exchanged on that section. I-Tao Tsai stopped to take these two pictures; note the interesting perspective which make my poles look like they are 8-ft long (I set them high at 130 cm, but that's not as long as that seems here):

My GPS showed 23.5 miles when... I crossed Steven who was charging up Kennedy Road, wow! That was about a 4-mile lead already, despite my feeling I had a better run than last year, when my hamstring attach was still painful. Some wanted to beat the heat early!

I asked for some Vaseline at the Kennedy Road aid station to no avail (dang, that used to be a standard supply when I started running ultras in 2006...), took some Coke and ice in my cap, and up I was again, still feeling rather bullish, in 9th or 10th place. 3 miles up though, and despite the nice encouragements of the others now going down Kennedy, I managed to catch up with Ben only to fall apart and not being able to pass him. We were both slowing down significantly and that allowed another runner to catch up with us and pass us. A runner who appeared to potentially be in my age group. Indeed, it was Roni Kauri, 54, from the State of Washington. I was expecting a battle with Dominick (Layfield) again, now 51, but he DNS’ed this year (Did Not Start). At least Roni wasn’t competing in our Grand Prix. I must have spent at least 5 minutes at the Woods Road aid station, trying to cool down and regroup, wondering what did hit me on that Kennedy climb. Half way distance wise, with the toughest climbs behind, the toughest was over, yet we were now in the good heat of the day and it didn’t feel so go already slogging in the uphills, still with 31 hilly miles to go. My quads and hamstrings had started cramping at mile 25, way too early. And painful!
I tried to relax on the way down to Hicks Road but had to stop several times when cramping was unbearable and my tights were seizing. I was still taking one S!Cap per hour and had taken enough for 12 hours, plus 4 spare caps. In the past and very hot days, I would take one every 30 minutes. After running 482 ultra marathons (including 189 ultra races), I should know better... I can’t believe I missed on managing my electrolyte balance this time, it had been years since I made this rookie mistake. Maybe a way to remain younger at heart?
We were so spread out that, despite slowing down, I didn’t get passed before I got back to Hicks Road. Two runners were there, cooling off, and left before I folded my poles. Half way to our return to Hacienda, I could see Karl (Schnaitter) closing on me. I made a long stop at my car to change top and cap, refill my bottles, reload with GU gels and a 3rd Vespa, and pour ice in my bandana, hoping to get a fresh start for the last 20 miles. I saw Karl leaving ahead, now paced by Simone, but was certainly not in the mood of chasing them. Yet, keeping moving forward, I caught up with them in the roller coaster as Karl was badly cramping too. I got more ice at Mockingbird, another Coke, and managed to ask the nice volunteer to get a scoop from Kristina instead of pouring ice in water bottles with hands from the drink buckets (Paul’s legendary BBQ got nixed by crazy sanitary restrictions preventing from cooking outdoors, but it still makes sense to apply some basic hygiene on the drink side!). Anyway, the race strategy was now all about damage control on my side, keeping moving fast enough to get some points in the Grand Prix, yet slow enough not to fall apart. As it turned out, there has been an evacuation for heat stroke again this year, and more DNFs (114) than finishers (99), so not falling apart seemed quite a good outcome...
To my surprise, I caught up with Mike (Helms) at the Bull Run aid station as he was just leaving. I was so down though that it was going to take me a few minutes to regroup again, enjoying this special moment with my ex-club mates, the Stevens Creek Striders. I was looking forward to seeing Chris (Wilson) at the Catherine Tunnel Lolli loop, but no picture this time; Chris wanted to run the 50K this year but couldn’t find the registration page so ran another one. Despite a lot of drinking, cramps kept coming back but, after a few marathons 20 or so years ago, I have learned to run through and with them. Still, I had to stop a few times on complete seizure of my tights, that did hurt! Given the circumstances, I was pleased to keep moving on New Almaden and amazed at how neat the trail is after such a wet winter. Sure, some healthy poison oak in many places but kudos to our club members who volunteered for trail maintenance duties again this year, outstanding job!
A pleasure to be welcomed by another Strider, Mike Kreaden, who had taken a short break from skiing in Tahoe to come down and help us out. As I was whining, Mike said that everybody was one to one hour and half slower this year because of the heat. Keep that note in mind for when we discuss the winning time below. There was more excitement at the station thanks to the presence of Rajeev; Rajeev stated that I must have done so much better than last year when I passed him as he was struggling at the top of Providencia. But I’m afraid it might have been him being slower this year. At least it was great to see him still doing what he loves! With my cap and bandana full of ice –a luxury as the planet gets warmer—I kept on, slogging when I could and power walking otherwise. I passed a few 50K runners on the way up Mine Hill. About half a mile behind I could see Karl and Simone’s bright yellow jerseys. On the steep Providencia I got hit by the opposite: I started feeling dizzy and thought that, short of having experienced one already, I could be close to a heat stroke, yikes! I was probably not that close because it seems that you don’t really see heat strokes coming, but thought this was at least good heat training for the coming Spartathlon... As long as I was staying on the safe side. I managed to keep moving up to the only tree on that section and laid on my back in the shade. I don’t remember getting asleep but it must have been for some good 5 minutes because Simone was the fist to ask me he I was ok. She wanted to give me some salt, or send a medical team but, at mile 58 of 62, I didn’t want to drop that close. I managed to walk behind Karl up to the ridge but was unable to follow his jog once on Mine Hill. Several times I had to stop for more seizing of my hamstrings and quads, finally taking my 12th S!Cap. Again, I should have taken more, earlier.
The Striders were relieved to see me coming in their station after the heads-up and alert Simone had given them. I took a few pieces of watermelon, got ice water in my bottle, and off I continued on Bull Run still alternating slogging and walking. It must not have been with a pretty stride but I managed to run down to English Camp, and even sprint down the last mile to the finish. After breaking 10 hours a few years ago, I was bummed with my 12:07 finish last year. When I realized I could do 13:07 this year, I gave it my remaining all... 13:07:41, good enough for 12th overall this year (against 10th last year) and 2nd in my age group. Given the circumstances, rather a good outcome. Well, except for my UltraSignup ranking which took a huge hit again... While Mike had estimated that everybody was slower, that law didn’t apply to Steven who won in a blazing 9:27:48, wow! 6th best performance ever but I’d argue on a more difficult course.
Speaking of the UltraSignup ranking: that race got me a 72% and my overall score down to 85.6%. Surprisingly my age rank shows at 100% though, but that must be a glitch as everybody seems to be at 100% this weekend! Anyway, who cares, right?


And to add one more stats, quite a few steps in a single day...

As mentioned above, I’m feeling bad for the 100+ who didn’t manage to finish within the 17-hour cut-off. With 13,000 feet of cumulated elevation this course is a beast, albeit not technical overall. I used to say that most of it is runnable but that was when I was in top shape. Did I say that time was flying...?


Most sincere thanks to all the volunteers who made this key event happen again. I’ve heard that it was even more difficult for the coordinators to recruit this year, even more appreciation to those who answered the call. Especially as, a first for me, I didn’t help at all. While Shiran (Kochavi) stated that I was looking good on his picture at the finish, I didn’t get the energy to stop by Mockingbird to help Kristina this year. Special kudos to Stuart and Loren for perpetuating this great ultra tradition!

I had just enough in the tank to stay for 2 more hours at the finish and witness a few highlights such as: the finish of the top 3 women; a proposal; and the even more emotional finish of “Team Keith”. I had seen a tribute to Keith Evans-Orville in Ultra Running Magazine last month and noticed he was still in the entrant list. Some of his friends ran the 100K as a relay to honor him, ending in an embrace with Keith’s wife and family at the finish. What a meaningful tribute to Keith’s love for ultra-running!

Omnipresent ultra volunteer and finisher of many Quicksilver editions in the 90s and 2000s, Stan (Jensen), taking a Coke order from winner Jaclyn Foroughi, from Truckee, paced by Mandie (Holmes):

Jaclyn (1st place), Rebekah Rose (2nd) and Sue Qian (3rd), all under 14 hours:

Janeth (Siva), competing in the ultra volunteer category with Stan (Jensen), got a big upgrade with a powerful bull horn this time!

William (Dai) got his coveted 500K plaque for his 5th Quicksilver 100K finish:

With our new teammate, Elizabeth Omodt (3 out of our 6 club entrants finished, tough day...):

And these are the main highlights who come to mind after 2 weeks, although I could keep on with many more details from more than 780 minutes spent on the course this year. But who cares, right? And, indeed, long has been since colleagues, friends or even family members asked how my last race went. Just one more page in my personal running journey, while it lasts. And the interesting balance between physical challenge and pleasure to be part of this supportive trail running community! Next ultra race in a few weeks already...

PS: A few pictures of the leaders going through the Lexington Reservoir aid station at mile 17, from Agnès:

Sunday, April 16, 2023

ITR's Woodside (non) Crossover Half: back to Huddart Park at last!

January 15 was our rendez-vous at Huddart Park in Woodside, for the Coastal Trail Runs (CTR)'s Crystal Spring trail half marathon. It was the first race of our USATF Pacific Association MUT Grand Prix in 2023, although we had opened the season with Quad Dipsea at the end of November. Well, this winter has been challenging, weather wis,e and the atmospheric rivers which drenched California led to the cancellation of the event. Nothing on CTR: executing the New Year One Day event in the middle of record rain falls on December 31, Wendell and Leng proved that they could hold an event against any element. Except if Park Rangers have to withdraw their permit for security reasons.

We reworked the schedule and decided to switch that half marathon to April 15, albeit on the other side of the Bay, at Lake Chabot, still with CTR. Guess what: with all this rain, a blessing on the fight against the persisting drought, Lake Chabot is now full and nearby trails are still either under water or too damaged to be used. Dang, another permit withdrawn, less than 3 weeks before the event! Ultra and trail running requires so much planning, I didn't want to lose the date. Shiran and I quickly identified a few options and I reached out to Inside Trails to see if we could use Woodside Purisima Crossover as a replacement. While Craig, the RD, was very welcoming, he had to obtain new approvals himself from the Park Rangers as trails through Purisima were too damaged as well. Meanwhile, I activated a fast-tracked approval from the team captains for this alternative, on the basis it was the same date and still in/around the Bay Area (after the 3 races we had so far in the Sacramento/Auburn area).

Long story short, we got the go ahead from the LDR (Long Distance Running) Committee to switch events in our calendar, phew! Special kudos to Craig for obtaining the required USATF sanction in record time! And grateful to the team captains for their support and responsiveness to make this switch happen.

A few years ago we added sub ultra races to reach out to new participants, hence the importance of maintaining this event on our calendar. So glad that a few clubs were able to bump their participation. Most notably a record participation from the Impalas, the super competitive all-female local club swiping most division wins in Road and Cross-country otherwise. Kudos to Bethy, their MUT Captain, for such a successful show.

Christine did well too with a great turn out from her Lake Merritt Joggers & Striders. As Shiran teased her: "Who would have known LLMS had men too?!" ;-)

We are so used to Pamakids' omnipresence, it felt more natural to see so many green shirts: with Shiran at the helm, after three outstanding years with Pen as a captain, their club is going to keep striving in MUT. And Pen can now focus on her passion for photography.

On the Quicksilver front, the color is still blue, but the club could benefit from a feminine representation, as well as newer blood. 

Actually, speaking of PA clubs, strong appearance from the Stevens Creek Striders albeit on the 35K, oops!

And speaking of these Striders, my original running club back in 2003, and friends, this pilgrimage to Huddart Park reminded me of the monthly training runs we had there in the years 2007-2012, during which I learned so much about ultra and trail running from folks like Charles Stevens, Mike Topper, Chris Garcia, Erik Klein, Gary Gellin, Brian Robinson, Sophia Lewis, Craig Heinselman. And Whit Rambach with whom I ran my first Western States in 2007 when it was his 7th consecutive, and who was visiting today from Tahoe, running the 35K. I chuckled finding this memory in a 2015 post: so many great memories, and such a fantastic bedrock for my 15 years in the sport!

From there [running with the Striders], when the 6-mile run was becoming too short, Charles invited me to join another Saturday morning ultra trail training running group on the Peninsula. I was so intimidated by this group of super experienced ultra runners who were going for 20 miles every weekend! But I gave it a try and the pace happened to be just what I needed to teach me not to start too fast at a time I was still mostly interested in speed on the marathon distance and shorter races. Brian Robinson (the first man to get a super crown for having hiked the three cross-USA trails in one year, and also a finisher and course record setter at the Barkley marathon), his wife Sophia Lewis (Top 7 at Western States in 2003), Mike Topper (5 consecutive Western States finishes including 4 in the top 10!), Pierre Tardif (2 WS finishes, both in the top 10), Craig Heinselman, Chris Garcia, Eric Klein, ... I learned so much about ultra running from you guys! Before he moved up to Marin County, speesdster Gary Gellin was even part of this group these past years.

With this long preamble, let's get to the race! I came to the start with quite mixed feelings, having injured my left calf two weeks ago, during my first speed training session in several years, dang! I took another week off, doing only strength training, mostly focusing on hamstring, quads and glutes (leg press and curl), and abs and dorsal. Plus a few hours of gentle electro stimulation of the side of my calf. I was bummed to feel the painful spot again during warm-up and I decided not to start at the front to see who was going to be ahead in our M50 age group in particular. I had not seen Andy (Belk, from Excelsior) for years and, at 58, he has a higher UltraSignup score, I knew I would have to push to win my age group today.

Excelsior had a great line-up of younger and fast runners: David Tran, Kevin Moore and Victor Skorapa. In perfect team spirit, Andy started with them in a blazing fast start! At least I could see the bright yellow singlets shining in the woods in the distance. On our side, I had informed Stuart and Gaspar about my calf issue, not that they needed my permission to start strong in pole positions!

Less than a mile from the start, in the first uphill, I managed to close on Andy and decided to stay behind for a mile. Meanwhile, I passed a Pamakids runner with red shorts, whom I didn't know and who had enough grey hair to look dangerous! ;-) To make the matter worse, he accelerated and passed me back, that's fair competition! Eduardo was another Pamakids, close behind, and I had forgotten his age. I've known him for so long, he could have finally turned 50 too, I forgot to check!

By about mile 3, with another of steep uphill to go, I did pass Andy and started chasing the guy with red shorts. I got to the top on his heels but, zip, I couldn't keep up with him on the way down, wow! While I lost a lot of agility and speed in technical downhill, that was a nice fire road and, with some good road experience, I'm supposed to also fly down. We still had more than 9 miles to go, I could feel the pain building up in my calf, some good warming in my quads, all this sent me signals that I shouldn't hit the red zone yet. 2 speedy miles later I closed on the two gazelles (the nickname I use for the Impala speedster, with genuine respects) who I had passed me on the way up, when I crossed Kevin followed by his Excelsior teammates, Stuart and a few others. That didn't make sense as we had not hit the aid station yet, much less ran the extra loop at the bottom of the course, but they explained to me that they had missed a turn. I turned back and followed them for a few yards, before telling them they were wrong and that we should keep going down. While they were still making their minds, I took the lead and they followed, thankfully!

We passed the course monitor at the bridge and I thanked her for being there, such a strategic spot on such a convoluted section of the course, then we saw the other course monitor who told us to go straight to the aid station. Carrying two bottles, I didn't spot and retook the lead through that technical loop, maintaining quite some speed. At the end of that loop, in some switchbacks, I heard Stuart teasing the others: I thought he was noticing how odd it was for me to lead in that section, with an injured calf, but he clarified later that he thought this confusion would make for some good lines in my post... ;-)

The lead... We had lost track of the first 4 or 5, a group including David Tran and Gaspar, but that made sense with that loop format after the aid station. In the long climb, Kevin and Victor took the lead of our group again. We managed to close on the guy with the red shorts and, when I passed him, I asked: "would you be in your 50s by any chance?" He replied positively, and I asked his name but he didn't reply, either because he didn't hear --I had such a soft voice, most especially when running-- or he was out of breath. I pushed the pace because he was so fast in the downhill on the first loop, I figured I had to build a solid lead before we get to the top. I was really pushing and, yet, Stuart managed to pass me. We reached the ridge together and, again, I had hard time keeping up although, this time, I was ok to give it almost all. To the point that one of my heel was burning, with a blister starting to form. Calf and quads were burning, but I was all in chasing the age group win.

Trying to keep visual contact with Stuart got me to move fast, so much that we caught and passed Kevin. Stuart put a few hundreds yards on me and actually sprinted Victor out! Because chip time took precedence, which isn't unusual, Stuart was ranked after Victor despite having crossed the finish line ahead AND having a lower gun/clock time in RunSignup. (Same situation for #31 and 32, then 43, 42, 41.)

Now, let's talk about the final rankings: Victor took 2nd, Stuart took 3rd and I was 4th overall, and 3rd men. First place was Annie Marrgraff, with the Impala of course. But, wait, what had happened to the folks ahead at the end of lap 1? Well, it happened they were sent, by the course monitor, back straight up at the bridge, therefore missing not only the aid station but the lower Crystal Springs Trail loop. Ouch, oops, yikes, dang! In ultra and trail running, we are often reminded that we are supposed to know the course, and not having to ask and get directions from volunteers but, still, I have to admit that, while I had replayed a dozen times the course directions the night before, it was great to just follow the instructions of the course monitors through this intricate web of trail intersections and turns. With that, David and a couple of others, including the actual lead female, had turned back and got disqualified. But it took a couple of miles for Gaspar to decide to turn back and retrace the official course from the bridge. Despite this big detour, Gaspar finished mere 5 minutes behind us, officially in 10th place. What a performance, both physically and mentally! As he shared on Sunday night, at least he had a blast having his two daughters crossing the finish line with him. As you can see at the end of this flyover (click on the image below, or this link).

There was a lot of chatting about that very special situation at the finish, we'll see if I get protests, as a MUT Chair. Everything else was so great otherwise: the bright sun which cleared the early fog and clouds, the dry trail, the abundant and colorful marking, and directions at intersections, the course monitors, the volunteers who spent hours serving us with 4 distances/events which kept them busy for hours in the morning and through the afternoon, the variety of food and drinks at the finish, the great finisher medals and shirts, and age group awards, the prompt publishing of results both on site and online. And free professional pictures to come soon. Such a great package! If only we had not rushed and pushed so hard on the half to lose some trail orientation...

Speaking of pushing, I can't believe how sore I am this Sunday, after only running 13 miles (well, closer to 14 actually). A testament of the cumulated elevation (~3,000-3,300 feet) and the competitive field. None of us managed to break 2 hours this time, although David and Gaspar --and a couple more-- would have had if not sent by mistake on a wrong turn. Challenging course!

And I was glad on Saturday night upon uploading my Garmin GPS trace to see that I had run the original and expected course, yeah!

Official course:

Garmin Connect:

Strava (you have to love the scale of the elevation profile, making it quite dramatic!):

Simple nutrition/hydration for this race: one pouch of Vespa, pre-race, 1 GU Energy gel before the second climb, 1 S!Cap, one hour in, half a bottle of GU Energy Brew.

I stayed for 3.5 hours to see others finish and chat with many.

In our age group, Eduardo took second, 2'40" behind me, followed by David Moulton (you see the red shorts), 1'45" behind, that was close!

With Andy and Gaspar:

With David Salladay, who, like me, is dreaming of running Ohlone 50K again:

Steve won his M70 age group, well done!

Keith and Stuart sporting the same Quicksilver ultra races memorabilia from 2012:

Happy to finally have this trail race of our 2023 schedule done. Hopefully not too much push back on the results and scoring. Several captains were also hoping it wouldn't turn into a big and sour deal. This week will tell... Craig handling the claim desk, among so many hats on race day!

At least this provided some good hill training to all and, for some, good warm-up and test before Quicksilver 100K (a Grand Prix race) and 50K (not in the Grand Prix). Hosted by the (my) other club in blue, Quicksilver. See many of you again, there! Us now being done with the acts of god/mother nature...

PS: when folding my bib I had noticed the paper was quite sturdy. But I didn't think it would almost cut my shorts! ;-) (Dang, I loved these Brooks racing shorts assorted to our Quicksilver uniform...)

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Is orienteering a sport?

You bet, it even has World Championships and an official site for the US, which states:

Orienteering is the sport of navigation, using a highly detailed map. Whether you’re an experienced hiker, competitive runner, or just a family or group out for an activity in a park, this sport helps you improve your navigation each time.

Wikipedia even goes further, calling it a group of sports:

Orienteering is a group of sports that require navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain whilst moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map, usually a specially prepared orienteering map, which they use to find control points.

Per my previous post, that's the second race Jason (Reed) was going to after racing the Big Bunny Fun Run in Cupertino. Although I had told him I wasn't racing because of the calf injury, he insisted I give it a try to that other format, even if only to walk the 5K option with his wife, Erika, and... their baby due in... 3 days! That's typical of the Reeds, always on the move and involved in competitive sports, from running to body building or table tennis! Not to forget trivia and Jeopardy, if they were sports too.

While I was really not in the racing mood, the topic got my curiosity and I decided to run to the start of the event in Sunnyvale, about 4.5 miles from home (I would end up running a slow half marathon on a strained calf that Saturday...). I got there a few minutes before Jason and Erika. They showed me the mystery map they were handed a few minutes before the start, to study and decide which route they were going to create to go through all the required checkpoints, 26 for the 10K.

At each checkpoint you have a question which requires you to be at the precise spot to get the visual clue, something unique proving that you were indeed at that point on the map. Something which you can't find an answer to on the Internet!

Coming from a company selling mathematical optimization software, that looked like a great instance of the famous TSP (Travelling Salesman Problem)! Quite a combinatorial problem and, as Jason had warned me, leading to participants taking off in multiple directions right off the bat. Quite different from a classic race where we all follow the same route.

I apologize for not staying until the finish because of other family plans. While I ran back home, I saw a few participants running or walking in different directions indeed; so surprising!

By the way, I'm afraid to ask how such an event can take place in a city, what the event insurance entails, especially as participants might be tempted to cut corners and jay walk... At least the pricing of the event is super reasonable and affordable.

Anyway, it was interesting to see and get to know more although I can't say I experienced love at first sight. As I tease those asking if we can walk while running an ultra, it's really the running and speed I like in... running. That being said, this certainly looks like a much more engaging way to walk and hike. I also have to admit that the finding-your-way thing isn't appealing to me, which I'll keep as an excuse for not being interested in the grueling Barkley Marathons. Give me a good and well-marked course, please!

And a good briefing that you'd better be attentive to!

In any event, kudos to Rex for organizing such an active series with orienteering events every month!

Kudos to Jason for winning the 10K race (of course...!), in 55 minutes. Assuming he optimized the route to cover the 26 checkpoints with a 10K route, didn't stop at intersections, ran the 10K at 6:30 min/mile, that's less than 30 seconds by checkpoint to catch the clue and write it down.

And mega kudos to Erika for winning the 5K event as well (women division), while 9-month pregnant! What a way to stay healthy before the big day! See all the results.

Also noting that it was refreshing to visit the RoadRunners store. That was the first brand I bought my running apparel from. And they do have such a broad selection, although I spent more time checking on the Brooks section for some unknown reasons... ;-) Can't believe they are even able to price my favorite Brooks Launch 9 at $80.95, that's bold! And $69.95 on line, this is a STEAL! (PS: they are actually passing through Books' current sales.) But even better to visit the store on McKinley, they'll check your stride and gait as well.

Now you know, a new sport awaits, run the world with a map and Find-Your-Way, Go Wild! Thank you for the invitation, Jason, and all the best, Erika!